New Delhi:
As many as 5,424 cases of mucormycosis or black fungus have been reported from 18 states, with a majority of them in Gujarat and Maharashtra, Union Health Minister Harsh Vardhan said on Monday.

“Nine lakh vials of Amphotericin-B are being imported by the central government for the treatment of Black Fungus. Of this, 50,000 vials have been received and around three lakh vials will be available in the next seven days,'' he said.

Speaking at the 27th group of ministers (GoM) meeting on COVID-19, he said that Gujarat reported 2165 cases, Maharashtra 1188, Uttar Pradesh 663, Madhya Pradesh 590, Haryana 339 and Andhra Pradesh 248 cases.

''Out of these 5,424 cases of mucormycosis, we have seen that 4, 556 cases have a history of COVID-19 infection, while 875 cases are amongst non-COVID patients. Diabetes was present in 55 percent of the patients.

''We have been warning, issuing advisories and, through our experts, it has been communicated that indiscriminate use of steroids must be avoided and diabetes must be treated thoroughly as best as possible,'' he said.

Nineteen states have already declared mucormycosis a notifiable disease under the Epidemics Act, he informed.

A notifiable disease is required by law to be reported to government authorities. On Genome sequencing, Vardhan informed that 25,739 samples have been sequenced and variant B.1.617 has been found in 5,261 samples, which is almost 65 percent of the samples, ''making it one of the most common mutations to be detected till now''. He also informed that states have been requested to send samples regularly for better analysis.

Giving a snapshot of India's efforts to contain the COVID-19 pandemic, Vardan said for the 11th day in succession, the recoveries are more than new cases in the country.

The Delhi High Court Monday said the gap between demand and supply of Amphotericin B, used for treating black fungus affecting primarily those who have recovered from COVID-19, is “too wide to bridge” and drastic steps are required to be taken.

A bench of Justices Vipin Sanghi and Jasmeet Singh, which heard for six hours the matter relating to various issues arising out of the COVID-19 pandemic, said the gap between the demand and supply is more than one-third and it cannot work at this pace.

“It appears the present production and supply and their projections may fall well short of the requirement of the medicine to treat black fungus patients not only in Delhi but across India,” the bench said.

The court also said this situation is very different from oxygen crisis and “if there is very limited supply, everyone will have to take a cut. How do we pass any order that you give it”.

The Centre indicated to the court about the expected supply of the medicine stock in May and June, early delivery of its import and ramping up of production.

Regarding augmentation of the medicine, central government standing counsel Kirtiman Singh and Amit Mahajan said expected supply in May was 1.36 lakh vials, in June it would be 2.55 lakh vials.

Besides, the import order of the drug is 7.05 lakh vials and the government is trying to find out other avenues, he said, adding that it has also set up a portal for real time data where the states have to update the number of black fungus patients, admissions to and discharges from the hospital and the deaths.

The court directed the Centre to file a further status report with all the relevant details and listed the matter for hearing on May 27.

The counsel said black fungus was not a contagious disease and it is not going to grow at the pace at which COVID-19 grew and added that those who have developed Mucormycosis, “best of luck to them and God be with them”.

He said the Centre will place in the status report about the efforts and progress made by them for alternative medications.

The court was informed by various advocates that besides black fungus, now white and yellow fungus have also been reported and the latter is more lethal and few cases have been reported in Ghaziabad.

To this, the high court asked if all these are related to oxygen and steroid administered on COVID-19 patients.

Additional Solicitor General Chetan Sharma said that according to Dr Randeep Guleria, AIIMS Director, it is caused due to steroid overdose and also seen in diabetic patients.

The Centre’s counsel submitted that they have issued a notification to identify black fungus under the Epidemic Disease Act which will ensure that all suspected and confirmed cases of Mucormycosis shall be reported through the Health Department and have also issued SoP for reporting the disease.